19 May 2017 - 1:00
Rally Kazakhstan: Must-win race for defending champion Abdulla
Aatau City, Kazakhstan: Qatari driver Adel Hussein Abdulla knows that nothing short of victory will be sufficient if he is to stand any chance of retaining his title as Saudi Arabian driver Yasir Saeidan arrives on the shores of the Caspian Sea to take part in the inaugural Rally Kazakhstan with a commanding 49-point championship lead.
The event gets underway in Aktau City tomorrow.
Minor problems and persistent misfortune sees Abdulla arriving in Aktau City trailing Saeidan by 90 points after a non-finish at his home event in Qatar with the QX Rally Team Nissan last month. Second place in Dubai was the best result so far this season for the Doha-based driver, although he has set several fastest stage times.
“I know that this rally is just so important,” said Adel.
“I have to win, simple as that. I need the 50 points. I have to close the gap at the top. There are plenty of events left yet, but it has not been my year so far.”
He and French navigator Sébastien Delaunay will use a Nissan Patrol Y62 prepared by TOK Sport.
The Toyota Land Cruiser driver, Saeidan has been a model of consistency this season and victories in Baja Russia, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and the Qatar Cross-Country Rally and third position in the Dubai International Baja have put the Saudi firmly on course to win back the title for series production cross-country vehicles that he lost in the FIA appeal court after the 2016 season had finished. Frenchman Laurent Lichtleuchter will co-drive.
Mansoor Al Helai features on the original entry list issued by the Automotorsport Federation of the Republic of Kazakhstan, but the Emirati and navigator Khalid Al-Kendi have not made the trip to Central Asia because of logistical difficulties. That means the son of the experienced Abu Dhabi driver Yayha Al Helai will not be able to challenge Saeidan and could well fall into the clutches of Adel Abdulla if the Qatari enjoys a good run through the western deserts of the eighth largest country by land mass on the planet.
Rally Kazakhstan President Marat Abykayev and fellow countrymen Kirill Chernenkov and Pavel Loginov will also be hoping for podium finishes on their home event. Abykayev lies eighth in the points’ standings after his second position in Baja Russia back in February.
After weeks of dry weather, heavy rain has lashed the area in the last few days, but the forecast is for brighter, warmer weather during the six days of competition. In a compact route of around 2,500km before the finish in Aktau City on May 27, over 1,850km will be timed against the clock.